Choosing an Events Venue in China
I have been very lucky to work extensively in China, running conferences in a number of industries, like travel and aviation, and as my friends and colleagues in the Peoples’ Republic and across Asia celebrate Chinese New Year and the start of the Year of the Monkey, I thought it would be timely to post my top tips for westerners running events in Chinese venues.
1. Avoid China’s ‘golden weeks’ for your event: it is impossible to get anything done during these festivals, every hotel is at full capacity, everyone is short-staffed and everything costs more. Less obvious is to avoid the week before or after a festival: factories, print shops, embassies and customs houses will all shut down, so if you are planning to move stock, fast-track a visa or get a sponsor banner printed, you may find these things difficult to do.
2. Five stars can mean dramatically different things depending on where you go, so follow the new money. The age of a hotel is much more important than how many celebrity chef a hotel has in its restaurants. If a five star hotel was built after 2008 anywhere in Greater China, it will be one of the best hotels in the world – without compare anywhere in Europe or the USA.
3. Negotiating on overall price is fairly simple, but it is harder to look at the individual elements (say, if you suggest free set-up and a reduced DDR, but paying full rate on room hire). Do not expect venue sales staff to think creatively – it is counter-cultural and the responsibility is with you to explain your ideas carefully.
4. Understand the hierarchy. Venue operational staff in China are trained to do things a certain way (foodservice is a classic example) and they will assume your event fits their standard template. You will probably have to get the person at the top of the chain of command to sign off anything that deviates from ‘usual’.
5. Appoint a local production company before committing to your venue, so that you can take your account handler with you to the event space you plan to use, to make sure he or she is well-equipped to fight your corner when you are back on the other side of the world. The distance, time difference and prohibitive cost of flights to go back again before your event mean that you need to be super-organised in planning the details of your event, months before it takes place.
6. Try and see everything on your first site visit. Pay special attention to signage requirements, the location of fire exits, the height of ceilings (often around 6m) and where the rigging points are. Take photographs of anything you think you might forget. Also, if you are likely to need extra space for things like drinks receptions or a speaker preparation lounge, ask to see all of these spaces in case.
7. Be wary of “yes”. As a mark of respect, venues will not want you – the client – to be unhappy, because your request hasn’t been understood. Check and double-check, using simple, clear language, to ensure that the venue understands your event’s needs. If you have any doubts, put things in writing – most Chinese professionals have a far better understanding of written than spoken English, so for a definite answer, fire off an email with a clear and definite question.
8. Finally, a little praise goes a long way in China. If someone performs well, or is particularly helpful, make a point of thanking them and copying in their superiors. Venues and suppliers in Asia do not court approval or feedback, so to volunteer it is utterly alien and will make you a client worth working with in the future.
I hope you find this useful and I wish you all 恭禧發財 (happy new year) from The Guide to Events!
If you find this useful, please share with friends and colleagues. A slideshare of this presentation can be downloaded here.